Carbon prices exceed real estate gains | The Murray Valley Standard

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At Woomaargama Station, 50 km north of Albury on the NSW-Victorian border, Clare Cannon is excited about the future.

The beef and wool producer operates 1,100 head of grass-fed Herefords and 5,000 Merino sheep.

But that’s not all she grows on the family property of more than 2,600 hectares.

Cannon also entered the carbon market.

“We are working with our agronomist to see how we can improve the reintroduction of carbon into our soil,” she says. “So change management practices.”

Cannon is one of a growing number of people on earth exploring the market and one of 240 people who have joined a new carbon trading-focused farmer-owned cooperative, Regen Farmers Mutual.

“It’s really about finding a trusted partner …

“There are crooks out there… they’ll say ‘we’ll fund this, but then we’ll take 80% of your future 25 years of carbon credits.’

“Like most farmers, I’m learning this,” Cannon says. “But my first job is to figure out what my carbon footprint is.”

Agricultural emissions have declined 18.5% nationally since 1990, according to the latest quarterly update of Australia’s greenhouse gas inventory released in November.

In the shorter term, however, they increased 4.9% between June 2020 and 2021 due to resupply to pastoralists after years of drought.

There has been tremendous interest in demand from farmers wishing to enter the carbon market with interest going “through the roof”.

Carbon Farmers of Australia director Louisa Kiely told Australia’s Emissions Reduction Summit last week that carbon farming has come a long way, but the methods remain complex and integrity is essential.

John Connor, CEO of the Carbon Market Institute, an independent industry association for companies focusing on net zero emissions, says integrity has been a central concern.

“We have seen carbon prices rise faster than house prices and this is appealing to a whole new number of entrants… we will not pretend that there will not be some who do not act in good faith “he told AAP.

“Our code of conduct for the carbon industry is a world first.”

Kiely says that farmers’ interest in the carbon market continues to grow and that “the standard lit up” when the federal government made a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

“The appetite was there but they weren’t given permission,” she said. “What has been given now is permission and what is missing now is the complexity remains.”

There have been obvious attempts by the government to change this, including cheaper soil carbon analysis methods.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced a new one in December as part of the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) to help calculate carbon levels remotely.

Soils previously had to be tested in the lab, but from there farmers will be able to access remote sensors and satellite technology to measure carbon stocks in the soil.

But University of Melbourne emeritus professor of soil science Robert White warns that there are still major hurdles.

“It’s expensive – not just the cost of measurement, but the opportunity cost if a farmer has to change their management practice.”

He says dropping the price from $ 30 per hectare to $ 3 is only a “remote possibility” given current technology and he doesn’t expect that to have much of an impact.

There is still “too much hype” around growing soil carbon, he insists.

“It’s going to have a marginal effect… unless something drastically changes.”

Analysis of Australia’s long-term emissions reduction plan shows that increasing soil carbon could reduce emissions by 4-16%.

While more than 200 projects have been registered with the ERF, Professor White says “inflated numbers” have been used to tell how much carbon can be stored in the soil.

But soil carbon project developer Matthew Warnken supports the new method. He says it will reduce the cost for landowners to sample their soils by up to 90 percent by increasing the accuracy of the measurement system.

As Managing Director of Agriprove, he helped negotiate Australia’s first and only deal in 2019, which allowed a farmer to earn carbon credits through ERF by sequestering carbon in the soil. .

Warnken admits progress has been slow, but tells the AAP that is changing.

“It took five years for the first 50 projects to be registered and in the last 18 months about 150 have entered the ERF registry… our expectation is that we will reach 200 projects registered by Agriprove by Christmas.

“Measuring soil carbon is a big cost, but the new soil carbon method… means those costs will be drastically reduced.

“Indeed, we have to extract carbon from the atmosphere and put it in the soils where it is a resource.”

Warnken says the industry has done extensive research on how farmers can reduce emissions from livestock, as well as those resulting from the use of fertilizers, conservation and vegetation preservation and, in the ‘together, using smarter climate solutions.

Further changes were made to the ERF on Friday when Taylor announced that ag would be given priority over native vegetation projects.

“Projects covering more than a third of a farm will not be able to move forward if there is evidence that they will have a negative impact on agricultural production or the local community,” he said. .

These restrictions could be a thorn in the side for farmers, according to Connor.

“We don’t know if that’s a bit of a stretch, but we need to look at the consultation document and engage in good faith.

“Generally, carbon cultivation is one string added to farmers’ bow, not one that takes away other agricultural productivity outcomes.”

A third of the Woomargama station already has a biodiversity pact on the ground, preventing its clearing.

Although paid to preserve it, Clare Cannon says she wants to leave a legacy.

“My husband was sort of having a nervous breakdown saying, ‘you’re giving away one third of the property in perpetuity with this alliance’, but in fact, not only did we get carbon offsets, we added tremendous value to it. the brand. “

Now, Cannon hopes to attract more carbon to the soil by changing his cultivation method, which will result in additional carbon credits.

“Now is the time to be pretty entrepreneurial and to have that third stream of income rather than beef and wool is very exciting,” she says.

Associated Australian Press


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